MIAMI, Florida – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of two Concacaf Gold Cup classics, the first being the Group C finale between Honduras and El Salvador from the 2019 Gold Cup, followed by the 2011 Gold Cup Final between Mexico and the United States. Both matches will be shown on Concacaf’s Facebook and YouTube pages, plus the Concacaf App.
For El Salvador, the 2019 Gold Cup ended in frustrating fashion with a 4-0 defeat to Honduras in their group stage finale, which prevented the Cuscatlecos from advancing to the knockout round.
The result was particularly disappointing, considering the fine start that El Salvador had in the tournament in a 1-0 win versus Curacao and then a 0-0 draw against Jamaica
“We started well, we started strong. We had never lost to Curacao. It was an even first half, but after the goal the chances opened up for us and on defense, we had no problems. I feel like we controlled the match really well, we were better and we got the result from that first match,” said El Salvador FW Nelson Bonilla in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
“We had to beat Jamaica the previous March to qualify for the Gold Cup and we beat them in the Cuscatlan 2-0, and so I think Jamaica was very cautious when it came time to playing us. It was a close match, with few scoring chances and we knew that it was a good point for us. In the final match, we started off well but in the second half against Honduras it wasn’t at all what we had done in the first two matches,” added Bonilla.
Nevertheless, Bonilla feels like some very important things were learned from that defeat to the Catrachos.
“We learned important lessons from the match. We learned that it is important to be able to control emotions when you face adversity. I think that’s what happened against Honduras when we fell behind. We got desperate, we left open too many spaces. Their first goal came in the 50th minute and we could have tied until the 90th minute, but instead we got desperate as if there were only two minutes left and Honduras took full advantage and scored another three goals,” said Bonilla.
Any time a team suffers disappointment, the best way to recover is to come back stronger than ever and El Salvador did just that during League B of the 2019-20 Concacaf Nations League. Drawn with Montserrat, Saint Lucia and the Dominican Republic in Group B, El Salvador finished with a 5W-1D-0L record and just one goal conceded, reflecting the true spirit of the El Salvador squad.
“I think the national team is growing, it is going for more in the future. Against tough teams like Montserrat, against Saint Lucia, you can see that football continues to grow. Maybe 20 years ago we wouldn’t think about those teams, but now they are preparing themselves and improving. We managed to overcome those difficulties and got what we wanted which was to be promoted to League A,” said Bonilla.
Bonilla adds that El Salvador need not look too far to find an example to follow when it comes to international football.
“I think the great example is Costa Rica. Costa Rica hadn’t made a World Cup until 1990 and since then they have grown and improved exponentially. Now, they are respected worldwide after the 2014 World Cup, and so that is the example for other Central American and Caribbean nations to follow,” said Bonilla.
The 29-year-old also believes that Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos is the right man to lead El Salvador forward in its quest to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“Coach likes tactical discipline. In that aspect, he wants the team always to stay compact, that no one ever leaves their line. That helped us go 11 or 12 matches in which the only game we lost was to Brazil by two goals until that Honduras game when it looked like everything was forgotten. But the truth is that he is doing a really good job and hopefully the national team keeps growing so we can be a big surprise,” said Bonilla.
Bonilla’s lone spell in Concacaf football came at Salvadoran club Alianza, where he played 2011-14. Since then, his footballing journey has taken him around the globe, but there is no doubt that his current home at Bangkok United in Thailand is a place where he plans to stay for years to come.
“I think because of sheer distance we don’t understand how good the Asian market is. It is a great setup in all aspects: From an economic standpoint, sporting standpoint, family standpoint. The culture of family in Asia is very strong and so I have discovered a country that I don’t want to leave. I want to stay in Thailand playing until I’m 40 if I can. We’ll see if maybe I can come back to Alianza and win a title one day. Thailand is a spectacular country. The people, the food, the culture. I live in the center of Bangkok and it is a city where you can find anything,” concluded Bonilla.